Turkish forces supported by Syrian militants launched a ground offensive into Syrian territory as part of its operation against Kurdish forces, the defence ministry said Wednesday.
The spokesman for one of the pro-Turkish Syrian militant groups told AFP the land phase of the operation began in Tal Abyad, an area under the control of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Turkish media said special forces and armoured vehicles led the ground invasion and had entered at several points along the border.
“The Turkish Armed Forces and the Syrian National Army have launched the land operation into the east of the Euphrates river as part of the Operation Peace Spring,” the defence ministry announced on Twitter.
“But the main reason we are here is that we want to say a special prayer for the victims of the church bombings.”
The government has urged national unity and warned against a backlash but a group of Ahmadi Muslim refugees in Negombo, the site of one of the attacked churches, has fled their homes after facing intimidation, activists said.
Dozens of foreigners died the attacks and the government said it expected the number of overseas tourists to fall by 30 percent this year which would cost $1.5 billion in revenues.
Samaraweera said the country could take up to two years to fully recover.
Tourism is a foundation of the Sri Lankan economy which suffered last year from a three-month-long political crisis between the president and prime minister.
Several countries, including Israel, Australia and Britain, have warned their citizens against visiting Sri Lanka because of the attacks.
Authorities reduced the death toll from 360 dead to 253, blaming badly mutilated bodies that were double counted.
Health Ministry director-general Anil Jasinghe said the “very complex nature of the human remains” had made it hard for forensic experts to initially compile an accurate toll. He said staff had carried out a “grim task”.
But the government faces anger over revelations that specific warnings about an attack went ignored.
Sri Lanka’s police chief issued a warning on April 11 that suicide bombings against “prominent churches” by the local Islamist group National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) were possible, citing information from a foreign intelligence agency.
CNN reported that Indian intelligence services had passed on “unusually specific” information in the weeks before the attacks, some of it from an IS suspect in their custody.
But that information was not shared with the prime minister or other top ministers, the government says.
“It was a major lapse in the sharing of information,” deputy defence minister Ruwan Wijewardene conceded at a press conference on Wednesday.
The leader of the Islamic State militant group that controls parts of Syria and Iraq has accepted a pledge of allegiance from the Boko Haram sect.
The spokesman to the Islamic State leader, Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, purportedly said this in an audio message transmitted on Thursday.
This comes six days after the leader of the Boko Haram sect pledged formal allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS) in an audio recording released on Twitter.
Boko Haram is not the first extremist group to pledge allegiance to the self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Others in Afghanistan and Pakistan have already done so.
Boko Haram began a campaign to impose Islamic rule in northern Nigeria in 2009.
The insurgents have been responsible for several bombings, mass kidnappings, attacks on churches and mosques and attacks on villages leading to several deaths of civilians and soldiers of the Nigerian Army.
However, the pledge and acceptance of alliances notwithstanding, the Nigerian military says that it would continue to enhance the effectiveness of its mission to curtail the terrorists.
The military says the fighting patrols by air and land are being stepped up in the forests and hills of the affected areas and other parts of the north east where the Boko Haram terrorists are hiding.
The Nigeria Army has also vowed that the security forces would continue to employ necessary fire power to protect its territories.
President Goodluck Jonathan has directed the security agencies to launch a full-scale investigation into the explosions that occurred near the emir’s palace Jumaat mosque in Kano State, north-west Nigeria.
The President gave the directive hours after the Friday’s explosion that left over 30 dead and over 150 injured occurred.
In a statement by the spokesman for the President, Reuben Abati, President Jonathan asked the security agencies to leave no stone unturned “until all agents of terror undermining the right of every citizen to life and dignity, are tracked down and brought to justice”.
He called on relief agencies and medical personnel to deploy every possible effort to assist the injured, and the general public to heed the call for the donation of blood by the hospitals where the injured are being treated.
The President reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestation was a despicable and unjustifiable threat to our society and must be brought to an end.
President Jonathan reiterated the determination of the government to continue to take every step to put an end to the reprehensible acts of all groups and persons involved in acts of terrorism.
Spirit To Remain Positive
He further called on all Nigerians not to despair in such moment of great trial in the nation’s history but to remain united to confront the common enemy.
The President expressed confidence that no terrorist act against Nigerians would destroy the Nigerian spirit to remain positive, resolute and united in the quest for lasting peace and security.
He appealed to all Nigerians to remain vigilant and cooperate actively with security agencies to win the on-going war against terror.
President Jonathan further extended heartfelt condolences to the people and Government of Kano State over the heinous attack.
He commiserates with all the families who lost their loved ones.
A Johannesburg Magistrate court in South African found Henry Okah guilty of terrorism charges levelled against him by the federal government of Nigeria. The sentence includes a life jail term. The sentence will be carried out on January 31st or February 1st. The judge however gave Okah room for mitigation.
Mr Okah is accused of masterminding two car bombings in Abuja on October 1 in 2010.
12 people were killed and 36 were injured. He was arrested in Johannesburg the following day.
The Presiding Judge Neels Claassen, said Mr Okah was found guilty on 13 counts ranging from conspiracy to commit terrorism to detonating explosives.
“I have come to the conclusion that the State proved beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of the accused,” Judge Neels Claassen said when handing down judgment.
“The evidence of all the accomplices that worked with him was not contradicted… I found that (Okah is the) leader, planner, funder, supplier… of car bombs used in Warri in March 2010 and on October 1, 2010.”
Claassen said Okah’s failure to testify meant evidence against him remained uncontested.
Okah was allegedly the leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) that claimed responsibility for the blasts.
He was charged with engaging in terrorist activities, conspiracy to engage in terrorist activity, and delivering, placing, and detonating an explosive device.
Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe, who was first to give evidence at the opening of Okah’s trial said Okah was a “key figure in the Niger Delta struggle and the militants had a lot of respect for him”.
Okah denied involvement in the attacks and also denies being the leader of the group.
State prosecutor Shaun Abrahams said justice had been done. The ruling showed South African and foreign law enforcement agencies could work together.
“There is no safe haven in South Africa.”
Abrahams said legislation provided for a minimum sentence of life imprisonment for Okah’s crimes.
After the guilty finding, Okah was taken to the court holding cells under heavy police guard.
Meanwhile, Lagos based lawyer, Festus Keyamo has argued that the conviction of Henry Okah is flawed.
Explaining the flaws, Mr Keyamo stated that the convict was not given adequate facility and opportunity to defend himself.
The lawyer claimed he had written a letter to the Attorney-General of the Federation seeking approval for witnesses to the case, including some government officials and it was approved only two weeks ago.
“But unfortunately without giving Henry Okah’s counsel in South Africa adequate time and facilities to follow the directives, the South African court foreclosed this opportunity to call witnesses and rushed to convict him.”
Mr Keyamo also said the terrorism charges are politically motivated and legally incorrect.
Nigerians have ushered in the New Year 2013 with so many expectations as those who spoke to Channels Television asked government to address problems such as security and governance because the New Year holds a lot of good tidings for Nigeria.
From Abuja, religious leaders in the nation’s capital have urged Nigerians not to despair as the New Year will be a better one for the country.
This is the central theme of messages in the church services held in in most part of the country to usher in the New Year.
They say 2013 will be a year Nigerians will receive answers to their prayers for the country.
This is the proclamation of Nigerians all through the nation as we move from Lagos to Abuja and from Abuja to Edo.
On the street of Benin, the Edo state capital, the people anticipate a 2013 that is much better than 2012.
Mohammed Abubakar, the acting Inspector General of Police has reacted swiftly to the recent spate of bombing targeted at the police force across the country by commanding the immediate upgrade of the office of the Assistant Inspector General of Police; an office in charge of intelligence to a management level position.
This decision was reached by the Acting IGP on Thursday during a security meeting with CP’s and AIG’s of all zones with resolve to give the required importance the department deserves to it so as to properly get rid of criminal activities in the country and to nip the war against terrorism in the bud which is one of the key importance of the decision.
It would be recalled that since the outbreak of terrorist activities and its spread particularly in the northern part of the country, there has been several calls for the Police Intelligence department to be revitalized, upgraded and made more functional but past Police IG’s lacked the will to make the move.
The idea behind the new management team is to ascertain that every move or strategy in combating crime and terrorism must have a proper background of intelligence gathering which requires so much brainwork and less force, which the Acting IGP also believes will strengthen intelligence in the police force. Also the plan to establish the Police Intelligence School in Ilorin the Kwara state capital has since commenced to foster intelligence within the force.
The Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, CSP Frank Mba disclosed that the action of the IG emphasizes his belief that the role of intelligence in effective policing of the country particularly with current security challenges needed an effective intelligence department.
With this decision, the AIG in charge of Intelligence at Force headquarters, Mr. Solomon Arase, has become the second AIG, apart from the Force Secretary, Mr. Dan-Azumi Job Doma, to belong to the Management team.
The Christian Association of Nigeria has expressed concern over what it describes as the lack of security for Nigerians and their property saying the frightening dimension of the activities of the sect, boko haram has become worrisome.
President of the Association, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor who addressed journalists in Abuja at the National Christian Centre on the state of the nation where he montioned that the activities of the sect is making it difficult for Christians in Nigeria to freely practice their religion where ever they reside as he warned the Federal Government, political leaders in the country and the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs on the consequences of the sect’s latest threat.
He further asked the Federal Government to stop foot dragging and go into action for once as it’s been said over and over that action will be taken, yet nothing has been done which brings to fore the perception that the sect is being pampered.
Many Nigerians are still mourning their loved ones who were victims of the senseless killings of boko haram.
The Can President encouraged the Federal Government and the Muslim community that the time for action is now to stop the barbaric killing so as the Nation can remain in unity.